Investigations letter to parents: let’s all use calculators in second grade

By Angela Burton, member of the Pelham Math Committee:

I tried to quickly skim the Investigations handout that came home on Friday, which is supposed to give parents an idea of what our kids will be learning in the coming weeks. I basically stopped reading after the first item, which discussed the use of calculators. Yes, our second graders are supposed to ascertain when it would be “easier” to solve a problem by using a calculator instead of adding in their heads.

To say that I’m horrified by the formal introduction of the calculator when Investigations has not yet introduced our children to double-digit addition — or, now that I think about it, meaningful exposure to subtraction — would be an understatement. More importantly, one has to wonder, when is it not “easier” to use a calculator than add a string of numbers in your head?

Here’s what what was said in the parent letter (picture to the left) titled “Related Activities to Try at Home” for the unit “Stickers, Number Strings and Story Problems” (word for Investigations word):

Calculator Exploration: In school students are learning when a calculator can be a useful tool. If you have calculator at home, pose problems for one another. See which types of problems are easier to do mentally and which ones are faster with the calculator.

Is it easier to add 5 + 6 + 5 + 1 in your head or on the calculator.”

It won’t end there. Dr. William Quirk compared the current edition of Investigations for fifth grade to standards covered in the Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. The Pelham Math Committee will do longer piece on what Dr. Quirk reports, but here’s just one thing he found in the fifth grade teacher materials:

“A lengthy section, titled ‘Fractions to Decimals on the Calculator’ begins on page 58 of Unit 6.  The teacher is instructed:  ’all students need access to a calculator during this discussion.  Write these fractions on the board:  1/2   1/4.’ The teacher is told to ask the students ‘how I could use a calculator’ to ‘find the equivalent decimals for these fractions.’”  Nothing about 1/2 = 5/10 = .5 or 1/4 = 25/100 =.25.”

Kids need to learn calculator in second grade so they’ll be able to convert fractions to decimals in fifth.

(Thanks to NYCHOLD, where PMC first learned of Dr. Quirk’s paper.)

If you want the highest quality math for the children of Pelham, click here to see and sign the petition to replace Investigations. For copy-and-paste fans, here’s the url:

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